A previously scheduled event may now become an opportunity for a community stricken by tragedy to unite in harmony.
The first-ever Orizaba Cultural Festival is scheduled to take place this Saturday, Oct. 19 at Long Beach’s Orizaba Park, where just nearly a week prior a teacher from a nearby private elementary school was fatally stabbed in front of her students.
Fourth District Long Beach City Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell said the festival had been planned by his office for months and is “not directly related” to the horrific incident. Nevertheless, the gathering aims to celebrate the community’s cultural diversity and “bring residents together,” according to a media advisory.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important that we highlight the good that happens in the neighborhood and its rich and diverse history,” O’Donnell said.
Kellye Taylor, 53, was supervising a group of children during recess at the park located at Spaulding Street and Orizaba Avenue last Friday, Oct. 11, when she was stabbed with a knife in the neck, according to law-enforcement officials. Police responded to a call at approximately 1:30pm. She later died at a nearby hospital.
Suspect Steven Brown, 50, of Long Beach, was arrested at a nearby shopping center at the corner of Anaheim Street and Redondo Avenue, according to the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). Brown appeared in court on Wednesday, Oct. 16 and was charged with capital murder. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, announced the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
A decision to seek the death penalty will be made at a later date. Brown is being held without bail, and the LBPD is continuing its investigation of the incident.
According to police, Brown allegedly came up from behind and attacked Taylor, a teacher at Huntington Academy located across the street from the park, during noon recess. Teachers immediately responded by ushering the children to a safe area while one teacher remained with the victim to provide her with basic first-aid. The suspect did not attempt to harm the children or other teachers, according to police.
Authorities state that Taylor is the grandmother of Brown’s children as the suspect was once in a relationship with the victim’s daughter. Local reports surfaced this week that the incident may be over a custody battle, however this information has yet to be confirmed by prosecutors as a possible motive.
Brown, who was charged with one count of murder with a special circumstance of lying in wait, has four convictions out of Los Angeles County, including residential burglary, robbery and possession of a controlled substance, according to the criminal complaint. The alleged convictions occurred between 1986 and 1998.
Since the ordeal, the school, which teaches kindergarten through 6th grade at 2935 E. Spaulding St., has been closed. Counselors are expected to be at the school on Monday.
Family members of the victim and members of the community gathered at the park for a vigil the day after the incident, and a memorial with candles, flowers and messages to Taylor are set up on a table next to a playground.
In June, city officials broke ground on a 3,000-square-foot community center at Orizaba Park that was paid for through a $2.2-million state grant. The facility, expected to provide space for after-school programs, community meetings and events, is expected to resemble a train depot on the former Pacific Electric Right of Way to reflect the history of the location.
The new community center is the second phase of the park’s renovation. The former Long Beach Redevelopment Agency had invested $3.7 million to acquire four adjacent blighted industrial properties to add 1.1 acres to the park. The expanded space, including turf areas, landscaping, basketball courts, a skate park, walking paths and picnic tables, was officially opened last year.
O’Donnell said he is confident that the park is safe and he doesn’t want the violent act to cast negative light on the park or the community.
“I’m proud of the work that the community has done to improve the park,” he said. “Just last week the Council voted to create a community garden in the park, [and] we are in the middle of building a community center here. We are investing in this neighborhood, its business. This is a tragic, isolated incident.”
O’Donnell added that the area is one where there has been “a strong public-safety presence and community policing successes,” and he expects that trend to continue.
As for the festival, the event will include educational and information booths from community departments and organizations, live music and performances from local groups. Children will be able to participate in face painting, a moon bounce and other games and crafts, while the Long Beach Police Officers Association (LBPOA) is expected to provide hot dogs.
The festival, which takes place from 11am to 3pm, is being organized by Councilmember O’Donnell’s office, the Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine Department, the LBPOA, Latinos in Action, Viva Panama, Eggleston Youth Center, Islands Best, United Cambodian Center, the Cambodian American Association, Khmer Girls in Action and the Temple Baptist Church.